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"Lower their Gaze" does not Mean to Avoid Eye-contact or to not Interact


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AceOfHearts
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« on: December 24, 2008, 09:18:24 pm »

"Lower their Gaze" does not Mean to Avoid Eye-contact or to not Interact

Many so-called practicing Muslims are un-cooperative and unhelpful to members of the opposite gender. They keep away from each other as much a possible. In some cases, if two such people are put in a situation where they have to communicate, one looks into the sky, while the other looks into the ground in order to avoid eye contact. A person of this breed can even appear impolite and rude to a person who does not carry this mentality. They back their behaviour using what they have been told about Verse 24:29-30 of the Qur'an. This is a misconception that arises purely out of a lack of wisdom and understanding.

The Verses they quote are the following:

24:30:
"Tell the believing men that they should reduce/lower (يغضوا) their gaze/vision and guard their private parts"

24:31:
"Tell the believing women that they should reduce/lower (يغضضن) their gaze/vision and guard their private parts"


Taking a literal understanding of Verses can often lead to erroneous understanding of a Verse. The meaning that should be derived from the above Verses is that men and women who believe in Allah and the Last Day, must behave modestly and carry themselves humbly between one another. Not only is this an interpretation based on reason, it is also supported by the other occasions the root word غض (to lower/reduce)" has been used in the Qur'an.

"It is those who lower (يغضون) their voices in the presence of Allah's messenger and whose hearts Allah has proved to be aware - they will have forgiveness and a great reward" (Qur'an 49:3)

We cannot say, by looking at the above expression, the verse means to not speak to the messenger just because it says "lower the voice". Rather what is expressed in the is that the believers should not have arrogance or haughtiness in their voice and attitude when interacting with the messenger. Likewise, to "reduce/lower their gaze/vision" does not mean to avoid looking at opposite gender, rather to carry a modesty, humbleness when dealing with one another. 

Another example is when the Allah describes the time when Luqman advised his son on how he should behave with people:

"Go at a moderate pace and lower (واغضض) your voice, for the ugliest of all voices is the braying of donkeys" (Qur'an 31:19)

The advise in the Verse is not to sound arrogant and inconsiderate in dealing with people. To "lower the voice" does not mean to literally lower the voice! For example, to become so quiet so as people cannot hear one speak. Just like "lower their gaze" does not mean to not look at the opposite gender, but to do so with modesty. 

A point which adds weight to this argument is that the term "ابصار (absaar)" translated as gaze/vision, has also been used in the Qur'an to metaphorically refer to a person's inner character and capabilities to grasp and respond to the outside world correctly, rather than literally one's vision through the eyes.   

Furthermore, lessons from the Qur'an show us that all believers must look after one another out of love for Allah and must not cut interaction, even between genders. For example:

“The believing men and the believing women, they are the friends of one another. They command what is right and forbid what is wrong” (Qur’an 9:71)

Allah further elaborates in another Verse:

"Those who were already firmly established in their homes and firmly rooted in faith, show love for those who migrated to them for refuge and harbor no desire in their hearts for what has been given to them. They give them preference over themselves, even if they too are poor. It is those who are saved from the greed of their own souls who are successful." (Qur'an 59:9)

The verse teaches us the strength of unity between true believers. This originates from their love for Allah and desire for the Hereafter. One cannot say the above Verse carries double standard for the two genders. Rather the believers of the time referred to in the verse, gave refuge to in their very own homes, all believers who migrated regardless of their gender. What matters is one's faith in Allah, believers are united by this.

The following incident in the story of Prophet Musa has lessons for the believers:

"As he made his way towards Midian, he was saying, 'May my Lord guide me to the right way.' When he arrived at Midian's waters, he found a group of men [watering their flocks], and beside them two women keeping their flocks back, so he said, 'what is the matter with you two?' They said, 'We cannot water [our flocks] until the shepherds take their sheep away: our father is a very old man.' He watered their flocks for them, withdrew into the shade, and prayed, 'My Lord, I am in dire need of whatever good thing you may send me" (Qur'an 28:22-24)

Prophet Musa's watering the flocks of the two women is a deed of a believer. However, such behaviour is unlikely among the majority group of so-called practicing Muslims of today. In conclusion, the expression "lower their gaze" used in Verses 24:30-31 does not mean to not look at the opposite gender or to not interact with them. The correct understanding is 'to interact modestly' between one another.

Verses 24:30-31 are not reasons in themselves for their mentality and behaviour. They simply 'use' the verses to keep up a nostalgic form of religion, derived not from the Qur'an. Part of this nostalgia is to cut connections from the opposite gender. This is common with their application of the Qur'an in all other areas, where the Qur'an is simply 'used' to to give evidence in a religion where the Qur'an is 'muddled', and its true interpretations are never reached.   

The Qur'an should be understood using Quranic context, as we have done here. One cannot arrive at the correct understanding of verses, if one's intention while approaching the Qur'an is to find evidence to prove a preconceived mentality.

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Zeynab
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« Reply #1 on: December 25, 2008, 01:57:54 am »

"Lower their Gaze" does not Mean to Avoid Eye-contact or to not Interact

Many so-called practicing Muslims are un-cooperative and unhelpful to members of the opposite gender. .. if two such people are put in a situation where they have to communicate, one looks into the sky, while the other looks into the ground in order to avoid eye contact.The Verses they quote are the following:

LOL!  this is so correct brother.  I like the way you put it. 

Well, these folks should know that as you so articulately explained, when the Quraan mentions about lowering the gaze, it refers to modest and dignified behavior between the two genders so that both are able to keep their self-respect intact.   It isn't about avoiding eye contact.  In fact, if I see a man trying to avoid eye contact while conversing, it scares me a lot more.  The reason for this is that you will find usually those men and women trying to avoid eye contact while talking if they already garner bad intent in their hearts.  It's their guilty conscience that makes them feel this way.  If one has clean intentions, one will never even think of avoiding eye contact.  In fact, avoiding eye contact while talking to a person can seem pretty impolite.  And Allah never commands us to be impolite.

Besides, the verse in the Noble Quraan that mentions about lowering one's gaze also means not staring or gaping at the opposite gender in public places, gatherings or simply while walking down the sidewalks in marketplaces.  Many men have this abominable habit, and also some women aren't totally free of it.  This is a cheap and indecent trait which Allah has very rightly said to avoid.  And this has nothing to do with talking politely and decently using eye contact with everyone regardless of gender, as all civilized human beings ought to do.  As we know, the Quraan is not just Religion but a complete code of life.  For this reason, the Quraan also teaches us many aspects of common courtesy.  Keeping eye contact while conversing is common courtesy and good manners.  It only becomes wrong if a person's intentions are corrupt.  And with corrupt intentions even if a person avoids eye contact, he or she is still a violator in Allah's Sight. 

Not to mention, many such folks who misinterpret the Quraan by getting influenced by  fatwas, often do not carry the best moral character themselves.  Their actions 'behind the veil' are often very different from their superficial gestures in public.

And yes brother, thanks for quoting all those great verses where Allah clearly refers to the importance of unity, affection and co-operation between believers - regardless of gender.  I just don't know why our people never take these important words of Allah into consideration.
 

"As he made his way towards Midian, he was saying, 'May my Lord guide me to the right way.' When he arrived at Midian's waters, he found a group of men [watering their flocks], and beside them two women keeping their flocks back, so he said, 'what is the matter with you two?' They said, 'We cannot water [our flocks] until the shepherds take their sheep away: our father is a very old man.' He watered their flocks for them, withdrew into the shade, and prayed, 'My Lord, I am in dire need of whatever good thing you may send me" (Qur'an 28:22-24)

Prophet Musa's watering the flocks of the two women is a deed of a believer. However, such behaviour is unlikely among the majority group of so-called practicing Muslims of today.

Very good example. 
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AceOfHearts
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« Reply #2 on: December 25, 2008, 09:25:59 pm »


Salaam dear sister Zeynab,

I am extremely happy, as usual to read your post Smiley. All the people on other forums have rejected totally what I have said with tacit approval from one or two. 

Quote
It isn't about avoiding eye contact.  In fact, if I see a man trying to avoid eye contact while conversing, it scares me a lot more.  The reason for this is that you will find usually those men and women trying to avoid eye contact while talking if they already garner bad intent in their hearts.  It's their guilty conscience that makes them feel this way.  If one has clean intentions, one will never even think of avoiding eye contact

This is precisely my thoughts my sister...I have experienced the same problem with Muslim ladies who dont maintain eye contact very well, I feel exactly the same as what you have stated.

Quote
Besides, the verse in the Noble Quraan that mentions about lowering one's gaze also means not staring or gaping at the opposite gender in public places, gatherings or simply while walking down the sidewalks in marketplaces.  Many men have this abominable habit, and also some women aren't totally free of it.  This is a cheap and indecent trait which Allah has very rightly said to avoid.

You're very right sister Zeynab. I intentionally avoided this dimension in the article since mentioning this gives leeway somewhat to the thing we're trying to refute because they muddle together modest interaction and eye-contact with the other type and cant seperate the two. I hope you know what I mean. 

I feel very proud to read your responses. May Allah keep you on His path.

Quote
  Keeping eye contact while conversing is common courtesy and good manners.  It only becomes wrong if a person's intentions are corrupt.  And with corrupt intentions even if a person avoids eye contact, he or she is still a violator in Allah's Sight. 

Alhamdululillah, so wonderfully put! you know what I have noticed? Among some of them, the young ones, they try to avoid eye-contact and interaction like you said. However, you will see that they feel some sort of hidden "excitement"...almost like the "accidental" interaction they manage to get, they get the most out of...or the act of trying to to avoid interaction while using terms like "the brothers", "the sisters", provides concealed excitement. I consider this actually a violation of the very verses they think they are upholding. Just like you identified.

I agree, it is impolite to not maintain eye contact during conversation. it makes the environment tense and works against the very thing the person thinks he or she is avoiding. And I also agree that if the person harbours no bad intent, he or she will have no problem maintaining proper eye contact.

Some times I feel like why do we believers have to talk about such trivial issues, but so many things are wrong with the majority of the Muslims today, its unbelievable.

May Allah keep us strong, forgive our short commings and guide us onto a straight path. Thanks for your very insightful reply dear sister. Smiley

peace.
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« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2008, 04:49:00 am »

There are also lots of cheap guys who think they are being very pious by not making eye contact, but their eyes keep wondering all over a lady's body while they talk.  This too seems really bad!

Very interesting thread.  Thanks all.
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